April 17, 2007

WHAT PEOPLE EARN

I just got around to flipping through the weekend's Parade Magazine, and it was pretty depressing. It was the annual edition of "What People Earn," complete with articles about how only rich people make any money. Sigh.

By most economic measures, 2006 was a great year. Despite rising interest rates, high oil prices and the sharpest housing downturn in 15 years, inflation was low, productivity rose steadily, corporate profits reached a 40-year high, the stock market soared and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6%—the lowest level in more than five years. Strong hiring in service businesses like education, health care, finance, travel and entertainment more than offset big job losses in the auto and housing sectors.

But in the midst of this booming economy, more than two-thirds of Americans told pollsters that they don’t believe life for their children’s generation will be better than it has been for them. Only 27% of those surveyed last year thought the nation was headed in the right direction; and this year, 71% of respondents said the country was on the wrong track.

Why are the American people so stupid? Have we really become a country where we don't think we're making progress? That is just sad.

“I’m sorry to say I feel the rich are getting richer, and the rest of us are fighting to survive,” says DeAnna Forman, who made $25,000 as a bartender in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. “I feel like I’m always trying to catch up.” Kirk Kuchera, who earned $8,300 as a behavioral counselor for youth in Austin, Minn., agrees. “It appears to me that the lower middle class continues to work its way down the economic ladder, while those at the top of the corporate ladder move higher and higher at an unbelievable pace,” he says.

It appears to me that you need to take an economics class, or at least read a Thomas Sowell book. I know, when we type up the section not-so-cleverly entitled "The Rich Get Richer," let's not actually quote any rich people! Let's just quote bartenders and other player-haters who have a chip on their shoulder! Great idea, roll presses. How about actually asking one of these elusive Rich People™ how much money he had to spend in order to become rich, or how high his blood pressure is, or how many times his cell phone rings when he's on vacation. Then ask the bartender the same questions.

Experts are concerned about wage inequality too. “We’re in an economy that provides outsized, almost lottery-style gains to certain people in certain professions,” says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm.

"Lottery-style gains." Nice wording. Nevermind how many years you go to college or how hard you work or how creative or inventive you are...you've simply won the lottery if you strike it rich. It's just, like, so unfair, man, that the florist and the yoga instructor can't make as much as the CEO of Halliburton. (Yes, that's right, they put the CEO of Halliburton's salary right next to the Air Force staff sergeant's, coincidentally right above the salary for someone who works in product placement.) I should totally be able to be a high school counselor and have weekends and holidays off and also get lottery-style gains! Stupid rich people.

In summary: The future of this country is going to hell in a handbasket, except for all these Clampetts who somehow managed to become CEOs. And life's not fair.

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